Now that Google+ Pages for businesses have arrived, you may be wondering, “why does my business need to get involved with yet another social platform?” I can give the short answer in one word — ubiquity. Google is everywhere, and Google+ is tightly integrated into the company’s most commonly used offerings. There’s search, of course, with over a billion searches a day on Google by hundreds of millions of different people. There’s also email, online documents, photo sharing, calendars, and the list goes on. Google+ is integrated across all these services, as well as in Google search results. Google+ is far more easily searchable than Facebook pages, and will improve your search visibility right off the bat.
This article describes the core features of Google Pages for small businesses, and provides a step-by-step guide to help you get started.
What’s a Google Page?
It’s basically a free way to build a Web presence for your business. It’s a bio, a communications channel, a means of getting feedback from customers, and much more.
There is a world of difference between a person on Google+ and a brand or business. People have Profiles, brands have Pages. Since Pages are geared specifically toward brands and organizations, there are some key differences that we will note as we go through the process of setting up a Page.
So, let’s get you set up!
Here is a simple step-by-step guide to setting up your Page. The process is really quite simple.
Register for a Google Account
Register for a free Google account or, if you already use Gmail or another Google service, you can use that same login instead. Every Google+ Page must be linked to a Google account. Be thoughtful as you do this, as there is no known way to unlink a Page from the Profile that created it.
Create Your Page
Go to the Google+ Pages for businesses page. Choose the relevant category. There are five to choose from: Local Business or Place; Product or Brand; Company, Institution or Organization; Arts, Entertainment or Sports; and Other. (Most of you will probably be choosing “Local Business or Place.”)
Identify your business. Type your business phone number into the box presented. If Google has already indexed your business info, it should come right up. If not, then you can just enter the address and other info right there. One good thing for “brick-and-mortar” businesses is that once you’ve entered your address, your company listing will appear on the map in the right-hand column.
Add a tagline and photo. Pages and Profiles without photos are often dismissed by readers as amateurish or not worth the time.
Circles are where the true power of Google+ shines through. Much like followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook, they allow you to sort people into targeted groups. When a new page is created, it automatically has Circles for “Customers,” “VIPs,” and “Team Members.” You can add as many others as needed or rename the existing ones until things are set up the way you want them. This way you can make posts that are only seen by each group, for instance, a special deal only for VIP customers.
By targeting your posts to these Circles or Public you can communicate better and offer more value than by simply broadcasting. Keep in mind that you cannot add people to your Page’s Circles until they have either added the Page or mentioned it online.
Unlike Profiles, Pages cannot share to “Extended circles.”
Hangouts allow you to chat live with other users using a webcam. Currently, a total of 10 people can participate in a Hangout simultaneously. Additionally, you can collaborate on Google Docs in real-time, share videos and pictures, and use a virtual whiteboard. The business uses are obvious.
Whether connecting directly with customers or expanding the ways in which your team can collaborate, Hangouts are a powerful tool. In my opinion, one of the most exciting ones on Google+.
Take note, Pages can’t hangout on a mobile device.
The “+1” Button
Unlike Profiles, Pages automatically have the “+1” button. Additionally, Pages cannot “+1” other Pages or any other content on the Web.
Here is a really handy reason to have a Google+ Page. Direct Connect is a new feature in Google’s search engine that allows you to find a brand’s Google+ Page simple by typing “+” before your search terms. It’s a shortcut the size of the Autobahn straight to your business’ Page.
Now that we’ve discussed the value of Google + Pages for small businesses, go ahead and get your business set up on Google+. We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.